Everything You Need to Create a Crowd-Pleasing Home Bar
Anyone can cobble together a random smattering of wine glasses and booze bottles, toss in a cocktail shaker and call it a "home bar," but if you're serious about drinking (or just have enough friends who are) and over the age of 25, you owe it to yourself and guests to try a little harder. There's no need to get crazy and splurge on a luxe setup, but setting yourself up with basics is a wise move if you want to at least look like you know what's up when it comes to booze. It's not complicated, either, you just need to know where to start.
To get you on the right track, we've pulled together a selection of the best home bar staples -- from the obvious to the less so -- to leave you armed and ready to whip up all manner of adult beverages. Learning how to do that is on you, though.
Above-average ice cube trays
Why you need them: To make large, cocktail-appropriate cubes that'll elevate your cocktails
Although you may think special ice cubes are a bit too high-brow for your bar needs, the truth they're an affordable (and simple) way to immediately impress whoever you're making drinks for. Clean and classic large cubes worthy of a mixologist aren't hard to make, either, as long as you have the right tray, like this silicone one from W&P. Each one forms a dozen 1.25-inch cubes, and features a nifty protective lid, which prevents them from absorbing the odors of whatever may be lurking in your freezer (crappy, flavor-tainted cubes make for sub-par cocktails). And since they're made of silicone, they're incredibly also easy to pop out individually when you only need a couple.
Price: $9.24 each
An insulated ice bucket
Why you need it: To handsomely house your fancy ice cubes
A regular bowl works as an ice bucket in a pinch, but if you're committed to making the upgrade you should invest in a stylish insulated bucket with tongs, like this brushed stainless steel kit which is subtly flashy enough to look good on any bar cart. Use it to stash the fancy cubes you just made in your silicone trays so people can help themselves, or keep it handy when you need to keep wine bottles chilled.
A quality cocktail shaker
Why you need it: To make your cocktails taste better and smoother
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but every home bar should have a cocktail shaker. You don't have to go full Tom Cruise-in-Cocktail, but a thorough shake (for the right drink) ensures you're turning out a properly frothy and blended beverage (particularly when you're using egg whites or fruit juice). This weighted Boston shaker set from Cocktail Kingdom is a step up from the dinky ones you've maybe used in the past -- and is specifically designed to easily separate when you're done doing your thing.
A classic coiled strainer
Why you need it: To cleanly strain ice and fruit from your shaker
Another basic necessity, this OXO strainer is the key to pouring a clean, smooth cocktail after a proper shake. It's also equipped with a raised lip, which should prevent you from dribbling any precious booze anywhere but into the intended glass.
An elegant mixing glass
Why you need it: To impress guests with your masterful mixing skills
Shaken or stirred is the age-old question in the cocktail world, but most mixology snobs will tell you that if you're making a drink that only contains alcohol (martini, Negroni, Manhattan, etc.) you should opt for the stirring method. When used in conjunction with a proper stirring spoon (like the one further down this list), this large spouted vessel serves as the perfect specimen to meld the liquids together in a delicate swirling motion -- and is large enough to use if you're making pre-batched cocktails. And, sure, you could use a pint glass to accomplish the same maneuver, but this diamond-etched Japanese-style version adds a sophisticated touch to the whole ritual.
Why you need it: To follow recipes like a pro
If you've earned the dubious distinction of having a heavy pour or just want to make sure what you're making tastes like it should, a traditional jigger is a must. This double-sided one from OXO has interior measuring marks at varying increments, with each end having a 1 and 1.5-ounce capacity, respectively.
A cocktail stirring spoon
Why you need it: To blend and mix the right way
As mentioned above, certain standby booze-only cocktails demand a good stir rather than a shake, and to do it right you need a long and narrow tool like this. Its twisted handle is intended to gently let liquids flow together as you're stirring, and they're also super handy when you're attempting to create more advanced layered drinks.
A sturdy wine key
Why you need it: For quick and easy wine corking
Wish you could effortlessly uncork wine bottles like a seasoned sommelier? This top-rated corkscrew (or wine key, if you're feeling fancy), makes the whole process a cinch thanks to exceptionally sturdy engineering. This particular model evokes the look of something you'd find in your grandfather's toolbox, and is renowned by servers and sommeliers alike for its "five turn" guarantee. Even better, you can pick from over two dozen comfort-grip wood or colorful resin handle options.
A cutting board and knife
Why you need them: To prep garnishes and ingredients on-site
If you're going all-out on upgrading, you might as well invest in a dedicated cutting board and knife set to keep at-the-ready on your bar. This fold-up version (which snaps closed to keep the knife secure) is actually designed with campers in mind, but it's also a great space-saving option if you're worried your prep area is getting a bit crowded.
Why you need them: To make muddled drinks and serve classics like old-fashioneds and Negronis
The rocks glass is an essential vessel for all manner of popular cocktails, and the go-to when you're sipping something more simple like whiskey or Scotch. They're short, stout, and weighty, and perfectly sized to fit just a few large cubes of ice. This sturdy and premium pair from Mofado features elegant diamond cross-hatch etching -- a signature detail in classic rocks glasses -- and will give your bar area a touch of sophistication.
Price: $26.95 per pair
Why you need them: To properly serve ice-less cocktails
The humble couple glass may come across as a bit too precious or dainty for your liking, but it is hands-down the best way to serve certain more complex, ice-less mixed drinks. Originally intended specifically for Champagne, it's taken on a whole new role in the world of cocktails, and you should have a few ready to go when needed. Grab this highly rated set of four from Luminarc and you'll be in business.
Price: $16.95 for a four-pack
Why you need them: To serve crushed ice cocktails (and more)
Collins glasses complete the trio of glassware options every good home bar should have. Similar to a highball glass, the collins is slightly narrower and meant for serving drinks that call for crushed ice. More importantly, it's specifically slim enough to make it possible to sip the last few drops without spilling all over yourself. Grab a six pack of these highly rated Buswell versions, and you're good to go.
Price: $24.99 for a six-pack
Why you need it: To extract flavors and mush like a pro
When you're setting out to whip up something that requires a bit of fruit and herb-muddling (looking at you, mojitos and caipirinhas), this sturdy wooden tool is the one to use. Handmade in Maine by the folks at Fletcher's Mill -- who also make top-notch pepper mills and rolling pins -- it's slim, weighty, and measures 11 inches tall, so it can get the job done easily in tall and short glasses alike.
A handheld juice press
Why you need it: To ensure your drinks taste as fresh as possible
If you're going to be a purist about your citrus ingredients, you'll need an easy way to extract that sweet, sweet juice from oranges, limes, grapefruit, lemons, and more. This elegantly simple hand press gets the job done quickly and efficiently while sparing you from straining your wrist or having to fish out any clumpy pulp or seeds. Plus, it promises to produce 20% more juice from a single piece of fruit than similar handheld models.
A citrus peeler
Why you need it: For garnishing and spritzing the right way
Much like a cutting board and knife, your newly revamped home bar setup deserves its own citrus peeler (and one that's guaranteed to be free of any lingering potato or carrot smells). You'll need one on hand to properly garnish everything from Negronis and old fashioneds, to Aperol spritzes and martinis.
A standalone bar cart
Why you need it: Because all your new gear needs a nice place to live
In many ways, the bar cart may actually be the toughest part of stepping up your home bar -- simply because there are so many options to choose from. Luckily, Wayfair is packed to the gills with stylish and reasonably priced pieces, like this nifty two-shelf Trevia model, which boasts a minimalist white and gold look and conveniently folds up (a big plus if you're only planning to whip it out all your gear when company's over). Otherwise, hit the home goods site to browse more than 1,000 other models.